During this time, the radiation oncologist will discuss your cancer and treatment options that are available to you. The physician will discuss length of treatment, side effects and further tests needed. This is the time for you to ask questions.
Simulation is the first part of the treatment planning process. The radiation oncologist uses a CT scanner to aid in planning your treatment. Sometimes a non-toxic dye will be given to you to outline certain internal organs. Prior to the simulation, the radiation therapist may place you into a special positioning device that will help you hold your body still during treatment.
As the simulation is being done, you will be given either small black permanent markings on your skin about the size of a freckle, or similarly sized semi-permanent marks. They will create a focus for the treatment machine. Your will be able to bathe or shower normally and not be concerned about accidentally washing them off. Planning marks allow treatment to be given to precisely the same spot each time.
A linear accelerator provides therapeutic doses of radiation during your treatment. Your will be asked to lie on a treatment table in a certain position and hold very still. The treatment machine will move to a pre-determined position, and you will not feel or see the radiation. Your therapist will monitor your treatment from outside the room with the use of a closed circuit television and intercom. Music can be played during your treatment, if you have a favorite CD please bring it with you for your appointments. If you experience any issues you will be able to communicate with your therapist throughout your treatment. It is extremely important that you do not move during your treatment. The treatment takes only 15-30 minutes each day. The course of treatment is usually 5 days a week for 2 to 8 weeks.
What are the side effects?
Side effects differ depending on the area of the body treated. The most common are fatigue and skin irritation. Your doctor or nurse will discuss with you how to prevent or minimize these effects.
What things should I do during treatment?
Continue your normal lifestyle and daily activities eat well and get plenty of rest. Do not scrub off temporary marks placed on your skin until you are told to do so. Do not apply any salves, direct heat or cold, lotions or other self-remedies to the skin area being treated unless recommended by your doctor.
It is also extremely important to schedule regular exams after your treatment is finished to check the continuing effect of your treatment. This may include blood work and x-rays. Maintain a healthy lifestyle is also part of following through after your radiation therapy is complete.
Remember: It is important to be your own best health advocate. Follow all home care instructions you are given carefully and report any unusual symptoms to your healthcare team.